Patty Colabuono has been taking photos since she was a child, and in recent years she has cultivated a market for the note cards she makes using her images of flowers.
On Wednesday, she found a much larger audience for her work. Colabuono, of Arlington Heights, took first place in the visual art portion of the Daily Herald's Community Art & Writing Contest for her photo "Wood Nymph."
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"I am blown away every time I view this entry," said Karen Saxo, an artist and teacher at Main Street Art in Lake Zurich who judged visual art entries. "The composition draws the eye into the subject immediately."
Colabuono says she found her subject during a visit to the Renaissance Faire in Bristol, Wis., and it turned out to be a winner. "I've never entered a contest outside of the ones offered by my camera club," Colabuono said. "I was so thrilled when I got the call."
Dustin Beelow of Des Plaines took second place for his drawing "Jungle Not Found," while Tim Trojan of Arlington Heights placed third for his pencil drawing "Goodbye My Friend."
"The inspiration for it was back in 2010, when we had to have our dog put down," Trojan said. "I remember sitting on a bench like that outside of the animal hospital and just being so upset."
The Daily Herald sponsors the Community Art & Writing Contest in tandem with Northwest Suburban High School District 214's Arts Unlimited program, with the goal of giving adults in the community an opportunity to showcase their works.
This year's contest drew more than 200 entries, said coordinators Elizabeth Schrenk and Jennifer Aguilar.
"I think we got more entries this year since we went to an online submission process," said Schrenk, a former Elk Grove High School art teacher. "Before people had to mail in their entries. This seemed to be easier for people."
The top two prose entries flip-flopped their success from last year. Joanne Rooney of Palatine took first place this year with her story "Letters from Joseph" after finishing second in 2013. Last year's winner, Paula Matzek of Mount Prospect, placed second this year with "The Joy of Swimming."
Rooney said her inspiration came from a letter she received from a former teacher -- years after she finished school -- who said that she remembered her by name and prays for her every day.
"That experience led to the manufacturing of this story," Rooney said. "I just fell in love with the character while I was writing it and even dreamt about him, he was so real."
Martin McGowan, a relative newcomer to the contest, placed third with his story, "Class Struggles."
Bill Leece, a former English teacher at Rolling Meadows High School returned to judge the prose entries.
"In prose entries, I look for poetry," Leece said. "I look for figurative language, a great story with lots of surprises."
All three poetry winners are students at Buffalo Grove High School who study creative writing with teacher Kate Glass. Isabella Raymundo took first place with her poem "The Blanket Game," while Ivan Gonzalez took second with "Football Camp." Raveena Singh placed third with "My Hood."